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Art for Action campaign brings artistic voting advocacy to downtown Baltimore

People traveling through downtown Baltimore may already be familiar with the IKE Smart City kiosks, a set of interactive digital kiosks established throughout the city. If so, they might’ve seen bold artwork with messages reading “REMEMBER TO DREAM," “THIS IS A CALL TO ALL,” “LEAD WITH LOVE” and various entreaties to vote early or at all.

These messages revolve on similar kiosks and other IKE Smart City screens in cities throughout the country. They’re part of Art for Action, a nonpartisan campaign by IKE Smart City and its sister company Orange Barrel Media that’s using these kiosks as a way for people to access voting resources.

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According to the companies' Columbus, Ohio-based CEO, Pete Scantland, the initiative is running across more than 500 kiosks and other related screens in the United States. By the companies' estimate, this campaign will reach over 105 million potential voters, including in numerous swing states like Ohio.

“We felt like, with a very utilitarian campaign that our company developed internally, and then paired with these really interesting and inspirational messages from artists, we thought that was a good approach to encourage citizen engagement," Scantland said.

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The initiative, done in partnership with the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, features original works by nationally recognized artists like Jenny Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, Jeffrey Gibson and Tomashi Jackson. Scantland credited Holzer, a prior collaborator, with the genesis of this particular initiative.

“She had written new artwork that was contextual to the election, and she wanted to display it,” he said. “We started working with her on that initiative, and decided it made sense to broaden it, to bring in other artists and different perspectives.”

Orange Barrel Media has pursued projects similar to this one with other high-profile artists. The company partnered with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and the artist Nari Ward back in July to bring work from his retrospective exhibit at the museum to 38 digital screens throughout that city’s downtown.

The kiosks, which normally allow users to interactively access information about city services and other topics of interest, will also feature voter registration and deadline information.

“Since our founding in 2004, we’ve been focused on [this question]: how do we use urban media not just to generate an economic result, but also, how do we benefit the community and deliver value in the cities where we work?” Scantland said. “We do that in a number of ways, one of which is partnering with arts organizations, artists and community organizations to share content that’s interesting, relevant and important to the community. And, so, this voting initiative, obviously, meets all of those criteria.”

Downtown Baltimore and surrounding neighborhoods boast 13 IKE Smart City kiosks, including by prominent landmarks like Power Plant Live!, Camden Yards and the Hippodrome Theatre. Scantland said that the Baltimore kiosks were already installed before the campaign, on IKE Smart City’s dime, in partnership with the city and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

Art for Action will run across the country until Election Day, Nov. 3.

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